Bad weather, cancellations and other unforeseen events have given the organizers of the Festival d’été de Québec (FEQ) a hard time. But these obstacles have tipped the event into the big leagues, according to the leaders of the FEQ, for whom 2023 is “a pivotal year”. Explanations.
“This is the hardest edition we’ve had. We had a record number of cancellations. We had constraints with air transport for some artists. We had the toughest weather in maybe 15 years. »
At the other end of the line, Louis Bellavance, director of programming at the FEQ, sounds… exhausted. We feel in his voice (which he has half lost) and in his tone that the last few days have been trying.
The bad weather conditions were so frequent that it was necessary to cancel many concerts, including those of the hip-hop evening, which was interrupted halfway, and all those of the evening which was to end with the performance of the Cowboys Fringants last Thursday (during which we also expected Vance Joy, Robert Charlebois and Elliot Maginot, in particular). Lil Durk, Christine and the Queens, Patrice Michaud and Meet Me at the Altar all canceled their presence, for different reasons, but always on very short notice.
All these situations, which were impossible to predict, forced endless days and sleepless nights for the festival organizers. Despite everything, Louis Bellavance expresses great satisfaction.
“I have the strange impression that it was a pivotal year that tipped the FEQ. We’ll talk about it in a while, but I have the impression that we are witnessing the claim to fame of the FEQ in terms of recognition, notoriety, magical moments, “he says.
It is perhaps precisely because the challenges were numerous that the organization was able to demonstrate all its know-how, he thinks.
Remember that passes for the festival this year sold out in record time, just one hour.
“I’ve spoken to the agents of the French, the Americans, the music industry power people who have landed here, and I feel like it’s become a no-brainer for everyone this year, that we are here, that we are part of the big machine. »
The FEQ can count on a “talented and ambitious team that thrives on growth and challenges”, notes the brain of the festival’s operations.
The biggest (and grandiose) challenge this year was to extend the festival by one day to allow the Cowboys Fringants, Robert Charlebois and Sara Dufour to take to the Plains of Abraham stage on Monday, which they hadn’t been able to make due to severe thunderstorms last Thursday.
The singer of the Cowboys Fringants, Karl Tremblay, suffering from prostate cancer, the concert that the group was to give had a very special meaning. A sense of urgency drove everyone involved to make Monday night possible. “The Cowboys, Robert Charlebois and Sara Dufour [came back] and [had to] all compromise to be there,” said Louis Bellavance. Then there are our production and operations teams, our field teams, our suppliers, our ticketing system, the technicians. The City had to get on board, the police department had to get on board…”
To put together this special moment “which makes no sense financially” for the FEQ, the organization had only a few hours. The day after the cancellation, the concert on Monday was already announced.
“This apocalyptic day was particularly special,” said Louis Bellavance, recalling last Thursday. This whole sequence of events marks a festival and marks a career. »
The FEQ is not perfect. Rather, it is constantly evolving. Its model has a flaw, for example, which means that festival-goers cannot be guaranteed, during very busy events, that they will be able to access the sites.
Because more passes are sold than the maximum number of people admitted to the Plains site, it’s a risk we take (in good conscience, by the way). But this kind of situation only happens very rarely, specifies Louis Bellavance. “The last time was for the Rolling Stones, in 2015.”
The easy solution, he adds, would be to sell 35,000 fewer tickets and sell them for $100 more.
The organization will look for solutions “so that it happens as little as possible”, while considering that the current model allows for larger crowds and unparalleled accessibility, says Louis Bellavance. “It’s part of what we sell to the artists we invite, this crowd,” he adds. That’s why we have a Pitbull on stage who looks completely overwhelmed, a Lana [Del Rey] who wonders where she is with so many people in front of her or an Imagine Dragons who wants to come back to any price, which makes it his goal in life to finish this show at the FEQ.
“We set the bar very high, it puts a lot of pressure, it makes you feel dizzy. But we want to continue, we want to go as far as people will follow us. And, right now, they follow us everywhere, all the time. »